Each Sunday throughout AusMusic Month Double J is celebrating a classic Australian album. This week: not even jail could stop Vic Simms recording his masterpiece The Loner.
Discovered at the local dance hall at the age of 11 by a music promoter, Vic Simms spent his early teenage years touring with the likes of Buddy Holly, Johnny O'Keefe and Shirley Bassey.
As he got older, Vic's life took an unexpected turn, and by 1973 he ended up serving time in Bathurst jail.
In prison, Vic kept a diary full of poems and verses that he wrote to fill the vast expanse of time.
He tells Double J’s Myf Warhurst that one day he was lucky enough to get his hands on a guitar.
This guy had a guitar for sale and put a little sign on in the yard... two packets of Drum tobacco.
Never having played the guitar before, he traded favours with musical inmates to learn various chords and eventually put music to each of his poems.
“Lo and behold, some weeks later I had completely different melodies for ten different songs,” Simms recalls.
One day some visitors to the prison from a local charity heard Vic singing these songs and weeks later he was offered a recording contract with major label RCA Records.
The Loner took one hour to record in the dining room of the jail, in front of Vic’s fellow inmates. It went on to become a classic Australian black protest album.
In 2012, Brisbane musician Luke Peacock - from bands The Painted Ladies and Halfway - discovered The Loner. He was so impressed, he gathered a bunch of his high-profile muso mates including Paul Kelly, Rusty Hopkinson from You Am I and Powderfinger's Ian Haug to re-record the album.
“I became friends with Vic and we hatched this idea that we revive these songs and try and give them another life, and from that, The Painted Ladies was born,” Peacock tells Double J.
Rediscover The Loner by Vic Simms and The Painted Ladies.